Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see new career field-specific physical testing as the Air Force expands physical training beyond the standard PT test, officials announced Jan. 31.
It marks the first time specific career fields will have "occupationally specific and operationally relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment," the service said in a release.
"ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced," Dr. Neal Baumgartner, chief of the Air Force's Exercise Science Unit (ESU), said in the release.
"There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets," he said.
Because of the critical skills these career fields require, Baumgartner said, the unit — with support from Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, and its Project AIR FORCE team — initiated the science-based review.
Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Blakeney (second from left), 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Hood, Texas, launches a medicine ball at the fitness center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)
Based on the study and focus groups, the new Tier 2 test — which is still being augmented in certain cases — includes such exercises as follows:
- 1,000-meter row (measured in minutes and seconds);
- Pull-ups (measured in repetitions);
- Trap bar deadlift (five repetitions, measured in pounds);
- Two-cone agility drill (measured in seconds);
- Medicine ball toss (measured in feet);
- Grip strength test (measured in pounds per square inch);
- 100-yard farmer's carry (or 4 x 25 yards, measured in seconds);
- Extended cross knee crunch (measured in repetitions);
- Weighted lunges (measured in repetitions); and
- A faster 1.5 mile run (measured in minutes and seconds).
Tier 2 is scored on a 1-10 scale in each of the 10 components. The ALO or TACP must score at least 46 points out of 100 to pass, according to the scoring sheet provided to Military.com.
In addition, TACPs or ALOs must now complete the 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes, 31 seconds, or less, the scores reveal.
Unlike the Tier 1 test, age, and gender are not a factor.
The tape test — widely unpopular among airmen, which measures weight and waist circumference — will still be taken, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.
Master Sgt. Kyle Anderson, 3rd Air Support Operations Group, runs between two cones during a speed, strength and agility demonstration at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)
The study, which began in 2011, found that in order "to properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks; develop fitness tests and physical task simulations; validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements; implement and verify these tests and standards; and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period," Baumgartner said.
The first step used Air Force focus groups to identify 44 air liaison-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs, the release said. They were reviewed and approved by senior leaders in the operations community.
The ESU team then identified 10 testing components deemed critical for strength training, dubbed "Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery."
They included grip strength, medicine ball toss, back and side; three cone drill; trap bar deadlift, five repetition maximum; pull-up; lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome; extended cross knee crunch, metronome; farmer's carry, 2 x 50 pound, 100 yards; row ergometer, 1000 meters; and 1.5-mile run.
"The important takeaway here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets," Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge, said in the release.
"The grip strength test, for example, measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why?" he said.
"While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement," Gruse said.
Lastly, Rand designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, which were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and tested during a pilot study.
Physical Task Simulation components included rope bridge; rope ladder; cross load personnel and equipment; casualty movement; and small unit tactics.
Master Sgt. James Blair, 12th Combat Training Squadron, performs a farmers drag during a strength and agility demonstration as part of the Air Force special operations community's new fitness assessment program at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)
Coming in 2019
All airmen are required to pass the service-wide Fitness Assessment known as Tier 1, Brzozowske said.
With Tier 2 in the mix, there is some nuance.
"ALOs and TACPs are granted permanent exemption from the aerobic (1.5-mile run) and muscle fitness (sit-up and push-up) components [under] the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment," Brzozowske said in an email Wednesday. They were granted the exemption on Nov. 1, 2017, she said.
That is because the sharper run is already built in their new Tier 2 training.
Brzozowske said, "The exemption applies only to ALO and TACP personnel assigned to positions that are required to take the Tier 2 [Occupationally-Specific, Operationally-Relevant] Fitness Assessment per forthcoming Air Force Instruction 13-113, TACP Training Volume 1 policy. All other ALO and TACP personnel must continue to take the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment."
While there were no women represented in the career fields during the pretrial testing, officials said they are eligible for either career field provided they "meet all minimum standards outlined in respective qualifications summaries."
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (second from left) poises to launch a medicine ball over his head Jan. 9, 2018 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Wright visited a demonstration for a new occupational fitness program performed by senior noncommissioned officers from across the special operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)
How and when the Air Force intends to implement the Tier 2 testing is still being determined.
The service is also weighing expanding job-specific physical testing standards for other Special Tactics career fields such as combat controllers, weather officers, combat rescue and combat pararescue, as well as non-battlefield airmen careers such as fly-away security teams, loadmasters and firefighters, which require more endurance on the job.
To prepare and to avoid duplication, some of these careers -- combat control (1 C2Xl ), combat rescue officer (13DX), pararescue (1 T2Xl), special tactics officer (13CX), special operations weather technician (1 WOX2) -- may be granted a temporary exemption of the aerobic run, push-ups, and sit-ups until Dec. 1, 2018, Brzozowske said. The waist-tape test will still occur.
"This exemption is contingent upon each career field manager resuming and continuing development and validation of their new AFSC-specific, operationally specific/relevant fitness assessments," she said.
The Tier 2 test is expected to be fully implemented for the ALO-TACP career fields by the start of 2019.